Statement on Executions of Death Penalty
3 inmates whose death sentences had been finalized were executed today, one each at the Tokyo Detention House, the Osaka Detention House, and the Fukuoka Detention House.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has repeatedly requested the Ministry of Justice to suspend executions until the national debate over retention or abolition of the death penalty is exhausted. Despite its request, a total of 7 inmates on death row were executed for these 4 months, 4 inmates in last December in addition to today’s executions; that is deeply regrettable.
Regarding the death penalty, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty on December 15 1989, which entered into force in 1991. Every year since April 1997, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (reorganized into the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006) adopted resolutions on the abolition of the death penalty calling upon all States that have not yet abolished the death penalty such as Japan to observe the UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty and to consider suspending executions, with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty. Under this situation, the number of countries which abolish the death penalty is steadily increasing. As of November 21, 2006, 68 countries decreased from 96 countries in 1990 retain the death penalty, and 129 countries increased from 80 countries in 1990 have abolished the death penalty by law or practically abolished as being not executed for more than ten years. It is apparent that the international trend is towards the abolishment of the death penalty.
In Japan, 4 persons whose death sentences had been finalized won retrials and were found innocent. These cases proved that misjudgments existed in sentencing to death. However, institutional and operational problems which caused these misjudgments have not yet been fundamentally resolved and the possibility of another such misjudgment still remains. Moreover, while it is pointed out as problematic that there is no clear standard for sentencing to life imprisonment or death, recently judges noticeably tend to impose heavier sentences. 44 inmates were sentenced to death in 2006 by courts across the country and that marked the highest number since 1980 being confirmable from a record of the Supreme Court. As judges tend to give heavier sentences, the number of inmates whose death sentences have been finalized is over 100 and today’s executions were carried out amid growing concern that many executions would be carried out.
The JFBA published the Recommendations on the Capital Punishment System in November 2002, advocating that a statute should be enacted, in force for a limited period of time, providing that execution of death sentences shall be stayed for such period of time, so that the issue of whether to retain or abolish the capital punishment might be discussed thoroughly and extensively by the people and necessary improvement or reforms might be made on it.
The JFBA urges the government to openly disclose the information on the death penalty system. It also strongly urges again to suspend executions for a certain period so that the issue of whether to retain or abolish the death penalty might be discussed thoroughly and extensively by the people and necessary improvement might be made on it.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
April 27, 2007